I've been re-reading Camp 4 by Steve Roper, about the early days of Yosemite climbing up until about 1967, the year I graduated from high school. I guess my Yosemite climbing years were 81, 82 and 83. We had modern sticky rubber shoes, cams for protection and good ropes. What struck me was the vast improvement in skills. These guys who were the big climbers during the 60s, the Golden Era in Yosemite were hard men, the best, yet I climbed routes set up by the best of them and never took a fall. I could out friction climb most of them, and my crack technique wasn't bad either. By the 80s we were climbing the cracks using lay-backs and edging the cracks with our boots, rather than getting inside them. One of my most enlightening climbs was an alternate start on the Royal Arches, one that had been a nailup, complete artificial climb for a very long time. I slipped my finger tips into piton scars, laid back and edging by shoes against lower piton scars, I easily climbed the scars. A ways up, I slipped a cam into a wide point. Of Course back then the smallest cam was a 1/2" rigid body friend, nothing like today's tiny cams with cables. It made me think about decades of people in aid slings doing the same route.
I've climbed the Nut-Cracker, a Robbins route, the first that was ever done completely with nuts, no pitons. I climbed it with cams, I've never actually set a nut while climbing, only in practice.
My first real climb was the Great White Book in Tuolumne Meadows, actually above Lake Tenaya. At the top of the climb I looked around and said "where's the peak?" My buddy who was teaching me said "Oh over there some where, why? Did you want to go there?" I was amazed, here we had climbed this really tough climb and we weren't at the peak. He said "we're rock climbers not peak baggers, anyone can walk up to the peak, what does that prove?"
An aside about snake dike. It was first done by Bridwell, Beck and Fredericks, arguably some of the finest climbers of the day were trying to escape the fourth of July crowds and discovered the Snake Dike route on Half Dome. They romped up the mostly 5.6 rock and only set a few bolts at "belay knobs". Only after finishing did they realise that it would make a great beginners route, except for the lack of protection. They gave Steve Roper permission to go up and put in a 4 more bolts in critical spots so the 5.6 climbers of the future would be safer. This was the first time in Yosemite history that a route had bolts added with the permission of the FA's. I have climbed on the old 1/4 button bolts of the old days. Now I understand that with the parks permission, many of these old sign hanging bolts have been replaced with 1/2" stainless steel modern bolts and they were allowed to use Bosch electric hammer drills to do it. But I haven't climbed in the valley recently enough to hook into any of them.